An intriguing find in San Francisco


Nigel has sent us this image, a printed handkerchief sized piece of fabric from the collection of Pat Markovich in San Francisco:

Identify the mines

Our friend Maryam Rashidi, the Iranian student of visual art, has provided us with the following translation:

The text at the top is written in Persian Farsi (Farsi Dari, not Pashtu), and it says “mark off (or identify) the mine zone” (mines being a method of warfare – the whole sentence means that they are asking that the mine zone should be known so perhaps they don’t walk through it and get injured!)… The sign on the left top corner is the UN sign, which I guess means that this “mark off the mine zone” is been asked from the United Nations…

Also, the text at the bottom, I guess it must be Pashtu text, and I am again guessing that it must be repeating the same text at the top (“identify the land mines!”)…

Maryam has also researched the “SB 33” that appears in the lower left of the image:

SB 33 which is written below the drawing of the mine is a type of land mine –

The lightweight, irregularly shaped SB-33 blast mine (made in Italy) can be scattered in large numbers by helicopters. Its mottled surface makes it difficult to detect by sight. It has an anti-shock device that prevents it from being detonated by explosions or artificial pressure, (source is Landmines: The Invisible Goliath)”

and elsewhere,

The irregular shape and small size (about 9cm diameter) of the BPD-SB-33 scatterable anti-personnel mine make it particularly hard to locate. A hydraulic antishock device ensures that it cannot be detonated by explosions or artificial pressure. It is also exceptionally light, and can thus be carried and deployed in extremely large numbers by helicopters.” (source is a Russian site, Art of War; the following image is also from this site).

sb 33

We’re reminded of one of the rugs exhibited in the Rugs of War shows in 2003, “If you see one mine there will always be many others …”

Plate 12

That rug also features the SB 33, but the text is reversed – we’ve rotated the image in the following detail:


The Journal of Mine Action has an interesting – and frightening – article about the use of landmines in Afghanistan. It states:

Although estimates from wartime landmine activities by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan regularly exceed 10,000,000, more realistic estimates are likely to be between 5—7,000,000 with some continuing use and limited access making that estimate impossible to verify. The most heavily mined regions are those bordering Iran and Pakistan. Security belts of landmines exist around major cities, airports, government installations and power stations. Most, if not all, of these are attributed to Soviet occupation or Soviet stocks left in their withdrawal. Kabul, the capital, is considered to be one of the most heavily mined cities per capita in the world ….

Thanks again to Maryam for her assistance.

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